What’s special about January

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Ten days ago, when I packed up our Christmas things, I was — I won’t lie — in a bit of a funk.  There’s something inherently depressing about taking down the tree, packing those ornaments and the stockings and the decorations away for another eleven months.  It was like that when I was a kid; it’s like that now that I’m forty.  After the colorful chaos of a living room full of red and green and holly and holiday folk (elf, Santas, snowmen, reindeer, Dickens doll, singing penguin –we’ve collected quite a lot over the years), January feels sort of … sterile.

And yet there is more space in our living room without the Christmas tree and the decorations.  It’s a small room to begin with — our little postwar house was not built with “palatial rooms” as a guiding principle — and when we moved the tree out and put the armchair back into its usual place and arranged family photos on the mantel again, something inside me breathed deeply and was happy.

January isn’t a banner month, really.  It doesn’t have the festivity of December, the spooky excitement of October, the hearts of February or the bunnies and baskets of April.  With the exception of New Year’s, there’s not much happenin’ in January.

Interestingly, that suits me this year.

What January offers, maybe, is not sterility but space.   Without a whole lot going on, holiday-wise, we’re invited to create our own meaning.   We can fill the space left by the tree and the holiday decorations with our own hopes and imaginings.  It’s a new year, a new month, and it invites us to look at the openness and think, “What do I want to put there?”

I haven’t made formal resolutions this year; I never really stick to them, anyhow. (My one exception:  I have this quixotic idea that everything else in my physical life will improve if I eat more vegetables, so eating them I am.)  What I do have are a bunch of dreams and hopes.   I’m letting these dreams and hopes dance around in the spaces of January, and seeing what happens.  And, somehow, lovely things are being born.

My garden is one example.  I love flowers, but somehow I never get around to planting annuals until spring.  But this year, something nudged me to get out there and dig.

So the boys and I picked up some primroses a week ago, jewel-toned blooms that smell  faintly like grape jelly.  We added pansies for variety, and  we planted them around the little angel and girl figurines that sit directly opposite our bedroom window.  Whenever I sit at my prayer desk now, I see not a bare patch of dirt, but vivid, glorious color.  It makes me happy, every time.

This is what January offers: space for us to fill with something beautiful.

How is your January going?  What are you filling your life with this month?

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